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From 'Yes' To 'No': One Scot's Shift On Independence


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Rarely in recent history has Scotland needed a weekend to recover as much as it needs this one. The decision on whether to vote yes or no in this week's Scottish referendum on independence was as much emotional as rational. The heart says yes or the head says no, or maybe it's the other way around. Ewan Morrison is a Scottish author and screenwriter who wrote a blog post in the lead up to Thursday's vote. He joins us now from the BBC studios in Glasgow. Thanks very much for being with us.

EWAN MORRISON: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: You had a change of heart during the campaign. Help us understand just in a personal way what led you to go from yes to no, 'cause I know you had doubts about what yes would really mean.

MORRISON: Yeah, I felt that under the banner of this one word yes that there were just too many questions and too many factions, if you like. For example, you'd have the ecologists who wanted an end to drilling to oil to want to have a green state. And then you'd have this sort of wanna-be oil barons who wanted to capitalize on, you know, the oilfields of Scotland. And on the other hand, there were factions of the hard-left. And then they were trying to sort of hold hands in this imaginary coalition with, you know, business for Scotland - your sort of pro-neoliberalism organization. And I really felt - hold on, what's going to happen is if we do get independence then all these factions are going to be fighting. And a lot of questions had been repressed about, you know, how they could actually work together. There seemed to be no post-victory strategy. I think, in truth, the yes movement was really very fractured. And through the advertising it put forward was putting forth this image of a unity under this magical word yes.

SIMON: With the advantage of a few hours of hindsight, what difference did it make, perhaps, to give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds?

MORRISON: Well, I'd been very worried about this vote to 16 and 17-year-olds because I didn't want the Scots to be voting on the strength of just positivistic euphoria. You know, kids love to be kids. They love the word yes, you know, as Vivienne Westwood, the designer, said quite recently. You know, vote for yes. It's a more sexy word than no. And I was quite concerned that maybe kids wouldn't have the political maturity to be able to make that proper consideration when voting. It would be just caught up on a sort of wave of, you know, kids taking selfies of themselves with the word yes in the background. The truth is that the Scottish person is not this largely left-wing, progressive radical who wants to start a new nation. It's actually - it's an old lady who makes tea and scones at the local church fair, you know. And these are people not well-known for wanting change. And they're very good at mobilizing an entire, you know, community as well. So I think we find the true face of Scotland.

SIMON: I suspect that more than a wee dram has been ingested in Scotland, particularly over the past few months, between people grousing about being under the thumb of London and the U.K. In the end, did a lot of Scots decide they kind of like the English?

MORRISON: I really don't think this is a kind of loving of Britain. I think that we had a double negative affect here rather than a positive embrace of what's British. It was more to do with a fear of how we might mess up if we go it alone, I think. There is just something within the Scottish psyche, I think. It's fairly confrontational, the psychology of the Scots. We tend to not wholeheartedly embrace something and say, you know, oh God, we love being British or we love you or, you know, we'll say, ah, you're not bad. You know, that's a very Scottish expression. I think that's what we've done with England and the rest of the U.K. You know what; it's not that bad rather than suddenly discovering our Britishness.

SIMON: Ewan Morrison, author and screenwriter, author of "Tales From The Mall," joining us from Glasgow, Scotland - still the U.K. Thanks very much for being with us.

MORRISON: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.